Su­gar Kings abrubtly fire head coach

De­ci­sion comes as a sur­prise to Trent Brown

The Woolwich Observer - - FRONT PAGE - FAISAL ALI

THIS LATE INTO THE Ju­nior B sea­son, it’s not usual to see teams make tweaks and re­vi­sions to their ros­ters, in search of the gamewin­ning com­bi­na­tion. But, the Elmira Su­gar Kings seemed to sig­nal a much more dras­tic shakeup this week on the bench with the re­moval of head coach Trent Brown from the team.

“I was ac­tu­ally fired from the head coach po­si­tion last night (Mon­day),” said Brown. With just un­der 20 games left in the sea­son, the de­ci­sion came as a sur­prise to Brown, who had been on the team’s coach­ing staff since 2013.

“I mean, we’re seven points out of first place, with two games in hand on them and I think we were do­ing al­right. But they wanted to make a change and some guys weren’t happy I guess, so here we are.”

“It’s al­ways re­ally hard fir­ing a coach, but I think es­pe­cially for me,” said di­rec­tor of hockey op­er­a­tions Jeff Sny­der. “Trent’s a friend of mine and has been a good friend of mine for four years – we’ve been work­ing here in Elmira to­gether. We just felt our team wasn’t pro­gress­ing in the di­rec­tion that we needed it to be, and we felt we had no other choice but to make a change to try and get our team play­ing a lit­tle bet­ter.”

The de­ci­sion came af­ter a week­end that saw the Kings fall for the first time to Lis­towel Cy­clones in a 5-1 de­ci­sion, and fail to break a 3-3 tie with the se­cond-last place Brant­ford 99ers – an­other first for the Elmira team. Pick­ing up just one of the four points on of­fer, the re­sult saw the Kings fall to fourth place with 42 points, be­hind the se­cond-place Cy­clones, which inched ahead by two points to 47 cour­tesy of the win.

“We felt all along that we had a pretty good team in Elmira, and a chance to be [con­tender] for the top of the stand­ings,” said Sny­der. “And we’re still not that far off. But just kind of the way – and es­pe­cially the way we played in the last few games, we didn’t play very well in Lis­towel Fri­day night and played even worse on Sun­day. Just kind of saw some signs there that our team wasn’t go­ing in the di­rec­tion that we wanted it to.”

Brown joined the coach- ing staff in the 2013-14 sea­son. In 2016-17 he served as as­sis­tant coach dur­ing the team’s 2016-17 Suther­land Cup win­ning se­ries, and start­ing in 2017-18 was pro­moted to take over as head coach. Un­der Brown’s new lead­er­ship last sea­son, the team strug­gled ini­tially dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son be­fore go­ing on to ad­vance sub­stan­tially in the play­offs. The team ul­ti­mately was forced to re­lin­quish the crown af­ter be­ing knocked out in the se­ries semi-fi­nals against Cale­do­nia.

“Last year was the first year Trent was the head coach, and I think he’d be the first to agree there’s a learn­ing curve there,” said Sny­der of Brown’s per­for­mance in the job. “But we thought we’d try to help him with that; we talked a bit over the sum­mer on maybe try­ing to do things a lit­tle dif­fer­ent, and I think he tried to do that and learned from that. I think he was im­prov­ing.”

How­ever, Sny­der notes that the team’s per­for­mance this sea­son has been spotty, even with ad­di­tion of new play­ers to the ros­ter this month.

“You see signs as you’re go­ing out through the year on how your team is go­ing. And we’ve been con­cerned about some of those signs; we’ve talked about them as a man­age­ment staff, as coach and man­agers to­gether,” said Sny­der.

Cur­rently, Elmira is just seven points be­hind the Midestern Con­fer­ence­lead­ing Water­loo Siskins. The team has had a strong record against most of the teams in the league, in­clud­ing against the Siskins with three wins and a loss, but has con­sis­tently strug­gled against both the third­place Strat­ford War­riors and fifth-place Kitch­ener Dutch­men.

Tak­ing over the po­si­tion from Brown for the re­main­der of the sea­son will be as­sis­tant coach Rob Collins.

Sny­der wasn’t too con­cerned the sud­den change could ad­versely af­fect the team’s per­for­mance at this point. He’s pos­i­tive about the coach’s im­pact on the team.

Brown, too, was pos­i­tive about the team’s prospects head­ing into the fi­nal leg of the sea­son, though was dis­ap­pointed he would not be able to con­tinue along with them.

“I’m ob­vi­ously dis­ap­pointed and frus­trated. The Elmira Su­gar Kings were a very big part of my life. I played there and met my wife when I was play­ing there, and was for­tu­nate enough to be on some good teams. And I took a lot of pride be­ing a part of that or­ga­ni­za­tion. Noth­ing but good things to say about every­thing in that or­ga­ni­za­tion,” he said.

“They’ve done a lot for the play­ers and for the town, I think it’s a great place to play and place to be and I ob­vi­ously want to be a part of it, and not be­ing able to for the first time in, well, six years I guess, it is tough. It sucks. I wish I could have been a part of the so­lu­tion, but it’s not in the cards.”

Trent Brown

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